Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany admitted that when the conference realigned itself for the 2014 season, the league’s foremost concern was geography, then keeping rivalries intact, and then competitive balance.
Despite having balance as the third consideration, Delany argued the new East and West Divisions exhibited a lot of parity…even though a cursory look at the time period from 2002-2012 doesn’t make it seem like that is the case.*
East: 566-396 (.588)
West: 535-540 (.548)
All those categories slant in the East’s favor. However, what’s interesting is just how much Ohio State is the driver of the statistical imbalance. To prove this, let’s take the two winningest teams from our time frame, the Buckeyes with 117 victories and Wisconsin with 102, and flip them.
Then the numbers look like this…
East (with Wisconsin): 551-415 (.570)
West (with Ohio State): 550-421 (.566)
East (with Wisconsin): 23
West (with Ohio State): 24
East (with Wisconsin): 224
West (with Ohio State): 235
I grant you, this is the absolutely simplest way to calculate things. It completely ignores the issue of strength of competition, which could vary widely since Nebraska wasn’t in the Big Ten this entire time; and Rutgers (Big East) and Maryland (ACC) have yet to even join.
It also ignores the fact that, as they say on Wall Street, past performance is no predictor of future results, and the trends reflected in our numbers may not be an accurate representation of the current strengths of each program.
Even this simplified analysis, though, helps show that if the Big Ten is tilted toward a big East, that has a lot to do with OSU.
Note: The Cleveland Plain Dealer doesn’t include draft picks or bowl victories, but they do go back a little further than I did with my numbers, and they have a lot of interesting tables you can check out.
*Records are from 2002-2012; draft classes are 2003-2013 in order to represent the same group of players. Also, Ohio State and Penn State both vacated wins during this span, but I’m including the results of those games, because to take them out of the equation would severely misrepresent what was happening on the field.